Release Date: Saturday, June 12, 2010
by Whitney Burdette
Charleston Gazette staff writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. Thirteen University of Charleston students returned this week from Italy where they worked to design marketing and export plans for various foreign companies who want to enter the U.S. market.
The Master's of Business Administration and Leadership students went to Italy for three weeks as part of a required component of the UC Graduate School of Business' two-year program. The study abroad component earned each student four credit hours.
Bart Morrison, dean of the business school, said it is important for students to learn about the global market before entering the world of business professionally because they can build relationships with companies overseas.
"We're really looking forward to having the development of an international outlook being the primary learning outcome for students here," Morrison said. "The experience in Italy was very positive. We look forward to keeping a program like this."
UC established the Graduate School of Business in August 2008, and the school's first 10 students graduated in May. They traveled to China between their first and second years.
Morrison said he would like to see the program expand in the future.
"We may look into developing other locations in other parts of Europe," he said. He also added he would like to expand into other parts of Asia, as well as Africa and South America.
While in Italy, students gained perspective on international businesses. They were able to take the concepts they learned in school and apply them to real life situations.
"The whole idea was to gain international perspective of business, not just the American idea of what entrepreneurship is," said Christopher Price, a second-year graduate student. "Quite frankly, this program has a lot of global focus on it."
Don Weller, another second year MBAL student, said he heard some skeptics doubt what the students could accomplish in three weeks. But he said that did not deter the group.
"When we got over there and were embedded with the company for three weeks, we realized what we could do," Weller said.
The 13 students were divided into five teams of three or four people per team and assigned an Italian company to work with: Cason, B&W Creative (known as Cardi Creative in Italy), Ferioli Filippo S.P.A., Catalfer and Tekno. A few of these companies are already established in the U.S., but some are looking to break into the market for the first time.
"The first day that I met with the company, they told me they were looking to go to North American and see if they could sell their product in the North America market," said Weller, who worked with Cason. "They had no prior knowledge of the North American market.
"Starting from the ground level, we did market analysis for three weeks. We mostly did that on a macro-level. We understand how these products are sold in the United States, and now it's networking in West Virginia and largely the East Coast."
Weller said Matt Ballard from the Charleston Area Alliance is helping Weller and Cason create local contacts in the Charleston area.
Price is also continuing work with his company, Ferioli Filippo, S.P.A.
Morrison said he is impressed with the way the students have built strong relationships with the companies they worked with. He said continuing the work relationship beyond the three-week requirement is something new.
"This idea of follow-through, of actually going from designing the export plan to implementation, going beyond the expectation of the program, is delightful," Morrison said. "It is a reflection of the commitment and quality of the students in general. They were there for three weeks and built relationships that warranted continuation. This is a great sign and a wonderful outcome."
Morrison said the school would explore how far this continued working relationship can go and possibly integrate it into the program's curriculum.
"That marks the kind of pioneer design of the program," Morrison said. "We're all very excited about that."
Price said he felt prepared to work with his Italian company because of the education he is receiving at the Graduate School of Business. He said the school uses a strategy called problem-based learning, which is a combination of textbook learning and use of real life scenarios to teach students various concepts.
He said although they had some oversight from a professor who accompanied them on the trip, the students used their own discretion when it came to problem solving.
"Some of that directly relates to the style of education that UC offers it students," Price said. "I know the relationships we've built will come into play, possibly even job opportunities if we want to step up to the plate and take them. The relationships is infinite as it relates to UC."
Although some students are not sure what they want to do after graduating next year, they realize how beneficial their time in Italy was.
"Having to leave from Liberia, a country where we've suffered from 14 years of civil war and setback, coming here to study is a big plus for my own profile," said second-year student Dekonti Morkonmana. "Having the experience of going outside of the U.S. to another country to work adds more to that."
Weller said the experience in Italy opened his mind and showed him international business relationships are important.
"We can learn from each other and that's why the globalized world is so key," he said.